How Organized Sports Killed the Mission of the Church

March 7th, 2012

The other night I was sitting in the home of a friend from church. We had gotten into a conversation over our church’s lack of mission in reaching out to the world. In the course of the conversation I had mentioned a few things we could organize groups for or some initiatives we could pull together. Then I said it.  “You know, the four of us could just go down to (said church) and serve a meal and help out the homeless. We do not need the rest of the church to do that.”

You might have thought I'd just said some statement extolling the virtues of the Third Reich the way they looked back at me. Even my wife mentioned on the way home, "I’ve never thought about that, we really could do that on our own."

Two by Two or Team by Team

This really isn’t so much about organized sports as it is about how we organize ourselves.

When Jesus sent out the disciples, he gave them nothing to work with (except the authority of the Spirit) and sent them in groups of two (Mark 6). They had little organization and end goals in mind. I wonder how many of us could agree to a commissioning of the church like that? Probably a handful, but not many.

Truth is, this move by Christ is very counter to our culture. From the very first nomadic to agrarian lifestyles, the group you associated with (much like the family) enabled your successes and failures. To be a part of a particular group was not just a matter of category identification, but a matter of life and death itself.

We are removed from that life and death circumstance in our lives today. (Yes, there are likely some instances where it is still critical). Our groups create our behaviors and our identifiers. Ask a young person who they are and they stumble with a response. Most likely they will say “I am a baseball player” etc. Which is a thing they do, but not who they are. Ask an adult and they would most likely give you a career/job answer. The stereotype of a lawyer, doctor, golfer, dancer, etc would probably give you more insight into who they ARE at that point.

Over decades this organizing seems to have conditioned our behaviors in taking initiative and action. We no longer take a risk at going out into the world as disciples of Christ by ourselves or as a couple. We no longer seek out ways to be the church or do the mission of the church even though we have authority of the Spirit through baptism.

This is crazy talk.

Think about it. A case example— Is a youth director organized or shaped any differently than a recreation director or soccer coach in many parents' eyes? You/I are expected to organize the activities, teach them skills so that they can make ‘varsity.’ When a congregation member feels the inkling to do something they come to some person and say “I think WE need to do… ” When that person comes to me I want to say “God hasn’t placed it on me to do that, but obviously has for you, so go do it.” As a good staff member of many churches I will give a “Great idea, here are some options to move forward with on that.” But you know this story, they do not move forward. That person doesn’t have their pre-conditioned coach and team to go with them.

So this is my thought. Organized sports (and our overall obsession with organizing) has killed the mission of the church to the point where we disregard the authority of the Spirit and the countercultural sending that Christ gave to us as disciples.


Gavin Richardson is a part-time United Methodist youth pastor and full time church misfit. He produces practical resources for methodist youth ministries through Youthworker Circuit. He can be found writing for Upper Room, DevoZine, UMPH, UMCom, the Youthworker Movement and guest blogging. You can find his misfit side on Twitter @gavoweb or

This post originally appeared at Youthworker Circuit.

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